Friday 14th February 2003
mandoza photo by hens van rooy
aryan kaganof: Mduduzi Tshabalala.
mandoza: That’s my name.
aryan kaganof: How did Mduduzi become Mandoza?
mandoza: It all began with a love of music you know. I started being in love with the industry since I was a baby. I didn’t care whether it was acting or presenting or whatever, whatever, because I wouldn’t see myself if it was in twenty years time sitting in an office like this you know? Such a boring work for me. I need something which is active you know.
aryan kaganof: You grew up in Zola.
mandoza: Well Zola is the roughest part of Soweto. It was difficult to grow up under that situation and with those influences around us. Thuggish. It was all of that like, it was so difficult for us to grow up under that. We used to feel in love with being a thug, we all wished to be thugs when we grew up. Thugs were the only role models in our township you know. And there were comrades while we were fighting the struggle. They were the only good role models of which you can think of. We didn’t have good role models like we have now. So we were blinded by the situation that was happening in the ghetto.
aryan kaganof: So as a teenager you actually got involved in the thug lifestyle.
mandoza: Yes. Because you were not a man if you were not involved in that direction. And people were going to look at you like you’re scared, you are a coward. You know what I’m saying, stuff like that. We had to. We had to do that. I got into car theft. We stole cars and stuff like that. At that stage I got arrested. I sat for two years in jail. I sat in Sun City (Daveytown Prison) in 1992, the biggest jail in Gauteng. It was like that. But my heart was not there. I did what I did just for fun, just to get a name in the ghetto. But that wasn’t my life.
aryan kaganof: So there’s no fronting with Mandoza?
mandoza: What you see is what you get. I’ve still got the ghetto mind. Although I’ve moved into the suburbs now. But you know you can’t take the ghetto out of me. I’m still that M’du they know.
aryan kaganof: Tell us about Chiskop.
mandoza: As I just said, that was not my line, being a thug and stealing cars and stuff like that. Me and my friends we had a dream, we had a dream to be on tv, by then we were dancers, we loved dancing and stuff like that, we used to imitate songs, overseas stuff like hip hop and stuff like that. We used to perform concerts in the ghetto, our own concerts. In our local halls. We used to win some competitions, got into tv imitating some of the American stuff you know what I’m saying. We loved what we were doing and we wanted to take it far. And then we got hooked up with Arthur. Arthur who is the man who started kwaito you know, we hooked up with him, and he gave us a deal. And then we called ourselves Chiskop. It hasn’t got a specific meaning, it means a man who is bald head. Cos in those days the fashion was being bald on your head you know. Cos everybody by then was scared to shave his hair. You thought you were gonna look ugly without your hair. Because the fashion was just coming in. So we were brave enough to shave our heads. So we set the trend, you can say that, and we called ourselves Chiskop.
Our first album went well. We went to platinum. The name Chiskop became strong. We did our second album it went well. We did something like five albums, the first two went platinum, the others went gold, because we had no proper management, no proper marketing strategy. Originally there were four of us, the other one died, we lost our friend Sizwe Motaung. He died of pneumonia cos we were doing a lot of gigs you know. And sometimes we drink, we don’t sleep, we were doing promotions, tyring the best that we can to promote our album. So I think Sizwe got sick then. But after he died our spirit became more stronger, we came together and became like brothers. So that is why we’re still together today. We agreed that if one of us did a solo that the name Chiskop would remain, would continue. I was lucky enough to be the first one to do the solo. It went well. I went triple platinum with my first album. At the same time we kept the name Chiskop alive. But for me it was beginning to have a lot of work in a year. My year was beginning to be shorter you know. I have to do Chiskop, I have to do Mandoza, and then some other projects on the side you know what I’m saying. Between those two projects you need some time, after you release you need some time to promote the album, to market it right and stuff like that. So the year became kind of shorter to me you know.
aryan kaganof: You work mainly with producer Gabi Le Roux.
mandoza: Gabi Le Roux started to work with us from the first Chiskop album. He’s a white man. And he has this heart you know he used to feel what we want to present to the people. So he’s the one who used to always understand and so for me to change another producer when I was doing the Mandoza project it was difficult you know. We’ve done everything together with Gabi until today and he’s a good musician, he used to be a jazz player, he can collaborate all styles you know.
aryan kaganof: There have been two significant reconciliatory moments in the post-apartheid period. One was when Mr. Mandela donned the jersey of the Springbok rugby team and gave the whites a chance to identify with him and feel embraced into the new dispensation. For me the second most important event politically in terms of this reconciliation has been the way white youths have identified with Nkalakatha to the extent that it has become their own unofficial South African national anthem. How did that happen?
mandoza: I don’t have a specific explanantion for that, for me to analyse it you know. I think it’s God who did this. Who made all these things to happen for me you know. He is the creator, you know what I’m saying. I didn’t have those kind of intentions to bring whites in, I was not there you know what I’m saying, my main aim was doing nice music for the people. No matter what colour it is black or white but I was just doing music. If you love my music thank you for that. But you know God has blessed me with that song you know dos it has brought a lot of black and white on the same dance floor. If I come to look at it if I’m on the stage performing it’s like wow! Cos I have crowds like that you know black and white dancing to Nkalakatha and they go crazy when the song starts! For me when I see that happening and I’m on the stage it’s like wow you know and sometimes when I get off the stage we pray. We pray when we go to the stage we pray when we go out of the stage because it’s kind of like a miracle. Nkalakatha is gangster talk it means a man who has got it all, like you are a man, Nkalakatha, you’re the man!
aryan kaganof: Is Mandoza the role model for all young South African children?
mandoza: Well I don’t know about that. Cos there’s a lot of good guys in the industry who are doing good things. Office people you can look up to you know. I wouldn’t consider myself a role model. I’m a sinner too you know what I’m saying. Like all other people. If people see me like that well, ‘nuff respect. But me as an individual I don’t see myself as a role model. But people always tell me that, that now you’re a role model you have to start doing this and that, so they’re feeding things in my head. Of which I don’t want to. Things must happen naturally you know what I’m saying. I’m a grown up, I can think for myself.
aryan kaganof: The birth of your son Tokollo has had a big influence on your life.
mandoza: Big time. My son is like me. When he sees me performing on tv you wouldn’t switch the tv off because he’ll kill you, you know? And he loves going with me to the gigs. When I go with him to the gigs he’ll cry to perform with me of which he can’t perform with me we’re doing a sequence on the stage you know what I’m saying. He’s like me.
aryan kaganof: Is he going to go into the industry?
mandoza: Well, he must finish school.
aryan kaganof: What is kwaito?
mandoza: Phew. Comes a tough one. I can put it this way, kwaito it’s a language that we use, a music that we use to express our ghetto lifestyle. It’s the way we talk in the ghetto. South African ghetto. And now it’s crossing over to the whole of Africa so you can say African ghettos. What we do, what we always do, what we like to do. Cos we only talk about that and the life that we live in the ghetto. That is why we call it kwaito.
aryan kaganof: Historically for hundreds of years black people have lived in ghettos. But that was never their choice.
aryan kaganof: So what is the future of kwaito.
mandoza: The future of kwaito is crossing over now. Like you just said, we created our own culture in the ghetto when we were forced to stay there, through that culture we had to create our won things that make us happy. Things that would remind us back to the struggle. Not forgetting who we are. Our language which the next person who doesn’t understand where you coming from can’t hear. We have to give it to them now. And explain it to them. What kind of a level we used to live and stuff like that. And I think that’s the way forward of the kwaito. We wil do collaborations with other overseas artists. Like right now I just did a track with Beenie Man. It’s opening doors. I see kwaito growing big time.
aryan kaganof: Who are your favourite kwaito musicians?
mandoza: There’s lots. Every good kwaito album I love it. I can’t be specific. Every good kwaito album which has got message on it. No just these fun songs but somethening which has got a message on it, good music, I love it.